How Rock Creek Stacks Up Against Other East Coast Urban Parks

I grew up in Garrett Park, but it wasn’t until I returned to the area this fall that I discovered the beauty of Rock Creek Park. Boasting about 2,000 acres, or 3 square miles, this national park is a major reason why I’m glad to be back in the area. When the weather cooperates (It felt like I’d been living in Seattle with all of the rain we got), I hop on my bike and get lost in Rock Creek Park. It’s an absolute sanctuary, one that makes you completely forget that you’re anywhere near a major city — and on the east coast nonetheless. Below is a list that shows how Washington’s crown gem stacks up against the likes of New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

Rock Creek Park

Established in 1890 through an act of Congress, Rock Creek Park splits the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., and includes access to the Smithsonian National Zoo, Chevy Chase Circle, the Capital Crescent Trail, the Georgetown Waterfront, Grant Circle and Meridian Hill Park, among other destinations. The park sees around 2 million visitors per year, according to the park website.

The park’s wildlife includes a population of coyotes, which were first spotted in the park in 2004, according to the National Park Service. Officials say most of the sightings have been in the upper section of Rock Creek Park, between Military and Wise roads, and the animals do not pose any threat to humans. According to the park service, the animals entered the park on their own, and currently, officials have no plans of intervening.

In February, the National Park Service announced that the park will receive a $727,000 grant from public and private donors. Under the National Park Service Centennial Challenge, Rock Creek Park will receive $527,000 in cash and in-kind support from Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy, the Rock Creek Conservancy, Casey Trees and the City Kids Wilderness Project. Dumbarton will fund and support the design and implementation of a stormwater management system, which will protect the park from erosion and other impacts. The conservancy and Casey Trees will donate funding and volunteer work to remove invasive species and install trees along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. The City Kids Wilderness Project, a group that organizes trips for urban youth in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, is expected to conduct a wilderness workshop.

The Centennial Challenge is a federal program generating about $15 million in support for 69 projects across 63 national parks. Projects must secure at least a one-to-one private match in order to participate in the program.

Central Park

Encompassing 843 acres, Central Park was established in 1857 on city-owned land. With approximately 40 million visitors per year, it is the most visited urban park in the U.S., according to statistics, while also one of the most filmed locations in the world.

Highlights include its host of ponds and lakes, the Central Park Zoo, a pair of ice-skating rinks, the Belvedere Castle and the famed Strawberry Fields, a memorial to former Beatle John Lennon. Strawberry Fields was dedicated on Oct. 9, 1985, the day that Lennon would have turned 45.

Emerald Necklace

Covering 1,100 acres, Boston’s Emerald Necklace is a network of parks, parkways and waterways built in 1970. It includes the oldest city park in the United States, Boston Common, a 50-acre plot bounded by Tremont, Park, Beacon, Charles and Boylston streets. Highlights include an arboretum and a zoo. The park records about 1 million visitors a year.

Fairmount Park

Spanning more than 9,000 acres, Fairmont Park is a sprawling expanse of 63 separate recreational areas that was built in 1812. Visitors can view Colonial-era mansions and Victorian-era boathouses while riding a Victorian-style trolley. The park also boasts two separate concert venues, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is situated at the park’s headway. Other highlights include the historic Strawberry Mansion, a summer home built for Philadelphia Judge William Lewis; the Schuylkill River Trail; the Philadelphia Aquarium; and Sedgley Woods, which includes one of the oldest disc golf courses in the world.

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